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Many approaches to improving how nutritious your diet is call upon the good old days, before the food processing industry brought the mid-century promise of “better living through chemistry” to its carefully designed product offerings. From Michael Pollan’s “eat [real, whole] food, not too much, mostly plants” to the Paleo movement, the idea is often essentially that most of what you eat should be foods your grandparents (or even earlier forebears) would have recognized.

Your grandparents (or great-grandparents) might not recognize cheez doodles, but you might not recognize many of their foods, either – as agriculture has become more heavily mechanized, markets (and constraints of large-scale farming) have helped to “standardize” foods with the result of far fewer varieties of produce available to us today than were present on tables just a few generations ago – and this is a vulnerability.

Illustration from National Geographic.

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